When Reading visit Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers might be forgiven for getting a bit of deja vu.
Rodgers’ rise to the Liverpool job has been pretty rapid as it is, but the ascent has been all the more spectacular given that the Northern Irishman was sacked by Reading in December 2009 and as his old club prepare to take on his new charges, Rodgers could well be drawing parallels between his chastising experience at the Madejski Stadium and what is currently happening in L4.
He jumped ship from his first managerial job at Watford after mere months to take over at Reading, a club where he had previously worked as a coach, but things worked out badly, with the ex-Swansea boss given the boot with the Royals hovering just above the Championship relegation zone.
Before this turns into some hyperbolic piece, I am not for one minute suggesting Rodgers should be under pressure as Liverpool manager: the job he has undertaken is a massive one and he deserves time to implement his style and money to be given the tools to do so.
But even still, there is no escaping the facts. This is Liverpool’s worst start to a league campaign for over 100 years and just one win and one clean sheet from seven games tells you all you need to know.
There have been encouraging signs, especially in the performances of the young players who have been, as Rodgers admits, ‘fast tracked’ into first-team action due to the lack of senior options, but if Steven Gerrard thinks Liverpool can get into the top four as he suggested last week, I’d like some of what he is taking.
And after six home games in charge at Liverpool in all competitions without a victory, Rodgers desperately needs three points against winless Reading on Saturday and he will no doubt see a game against a newly-promoted outfit as the perfect chance to do so. But I’ll tell you something for nothing – you are out of your mind if you are taking the 3/10 on the Merseysiders.
The draw is 17/4 and Reading are a huge 8/1, and I’d be more tempted to take the price on the Royals given Liverpool’s dreadful recent record at Anfield.
At home this season, Liverpool have failed to beat Hearts, Udinese and Stoke, as well as Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United and this woeful record at Anfield stretches back so long it is a serious problem.
Liverpool have won just six of the last 24 league games at Anfield, scoring a meagre 27 goals, conceding 24 and keeping only five clean sheets. This form dates back to before Rodgers’ arrival, but he hasn’t done anything to rectify it as of yet and as such, I’ll be looking at what prices I can get about Reading.
Brian McDermott has done a brilliant job since replacing Rodgers at the Madejski and last season’s Championship winners should have a few more points on the board at this stage, as the three they have won isn’t a fair reflection of how they have performed for the most part.
And if McDermott has anything about him, which he certainly does, he will look at how Stoke easily dealt with Liverpool last time out, when every Reds deficiency was on show as they laboured to a 0-0 draw, and go in with exactly the same gameplan.
Reading boasted the second best away record in the second tier last season, when they would often play direct and on the break, and it can be enough to give Liverpool issues. As such, I will be on Reading plus two goals at 17/20.
Backing the away team with a two-goal head start would have paid out in 20 of Liverpool’s last 24 home league games, as well as their last five League Cup ties and five out of the last six Europa League matches, and Reading can stay within a goal of their hosts at the very least.
McDermott’s side have scored seven goals in four away games in all competitions, including two at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, and if they were to get on the scoresheet, Liverpool would have to score at least three for the bet not to land.